Ego Integrity: 4/8 Personal career change


This is the fourth in a series of eight “old age” reflections on this period of my life. (The process and place of such reflections is described in the final paragraph.) It conjures up the words, focus, values, professional, challenge, learning, relationships, career, growth, psychologist, intellectual, power, change, transformation, wealth. The personal change I experienced in this stage of life was astronomic, all positive thanks to some key people in my past and many of the lessons previously learned.

My first couple of weeks back at Shotton Steelworks were exciting and interesting as I met old colleagues and made new ones. I was treated with a great deal of respect ….. there were only two “Docs” in the steelworks and everyone around the steelworks knowing I was a pal of the First Doc opened lots of doors! However, from my early days at the small Cumbrian ironworks I had learned a lot from the men who “worked at the coal face “ ….. and here at this massive steelworks, no longer confined to a laboratory, in my new troubleshooting role I would spend hours talking with the shop floor workers about specific problems that needed solving. Unsurprisingly, to me anyway, these were the people who often knew the solutions to technical problems anyway! I was mostly assigned to working with managers and engineers from the latter half of this integrated steelworks, and this meant troubleshooting in the Slab Mill, the Sheet Rolling Mill, and the Coatings Lines where I would bring additional knowledge on chemicals used in these processes as well as oils, gases and waste products. However, eventually I came to realise that the relationships part of the work was interesting but the technical stuff was utterly boring! It wasn’t that I felt the work beneath me after doctoral research, I had completely lost my appetite for anything related to chemistry altogether. Oh hell, what to do? Who to talk to? I think you know the answer to that, and Bill (note the familiarity now) didn’t let me down!

A week later I began a month’s observation inside the Personnel (nowadays HR) Department. Bill had picked up on my complete disenchantment with scientific work with the only enjoyable part of my work now being the “relationships element”. At the end of the month I had “tasted” recruitment, industrial relations, job evaluation and training & development and sat down with Bill (The Doc) to review things. I still don’t know how he did it, but within a week I was offered the chance to create a new section in Personnel focusing on Professional Recruitment and Training, the bulk of which was to recruit about 100 school leavers and graduates each year into offices, laboratories and engineering. I quickly chose 3 staff, a chemist, a metallurgist, and a clerical/administration expert ……. all graduates and from within the steelworks. I remained in this job for 4 years, gained lots of experience and generally enjoyed the challenge. Since the development programmes for each individual was between 2-3 years I soon had around 250 people to care for.

It soon became clear that this was the sort of work I could build a new career on, lots of scope and challenge but …… but I needed to move away from heavy industry manufacturing into a different and growing industry. It was 1979 and I chose the computer industry joining International Computers Limited in Cheshire where I joined the Personnel Department as an assistant to the head of Management Development. More great experience where I started to learn how to run management and leadership courses for supervisors and managers over the next 5 years.

By the end of that 5 years in the computer industry I had worked out how to grow my career, and a better life for us as a family. Two things were essential; firstly, work at the highest possible level in the SERVICE sector rather than manufacturing; secondly become qualified in a different specialism …… psychology, majoring on Organisation Psychology.

I immediately began degree studies with the Open University, rising at 5.30am each day and studying for two hours before family breakfast, and doubling up on this time at weekends. It took 4 years of real slog and I obtained a BA (2.1) Psychology. During this time I had spent 2 years working for a large distribution company, and two years for a financial services company. In both cases my experience widened and deepened as I also attended specialist seminars and conferences on organisational change and culture change at management colleges such as Cranfield and Ashridge. By the early 1990s I was at a different financial services firm at board level with a team of 60 working to change the sales force processes and culture to be more compliant with massive changes in regulation. This work “made my name” in the industry and after completing the project I was head hunted by another similar firm which was a delight to work for. I was now head of Organisation Development and reported only to the Chairman who wanted me to help him to transform the company over a 5 year period so as to be structured completely differently. His strategy was to become closer to their corporate clients and this meant ripping employees away from their specialism and becoming more generalist and able to deal with all of the clients needs and concerns. We needed team working rather than individuals as technical specialists, a new learning oriented culture, a different reward structure, and totally different marketing. It was a brilliant period of my career. It took 4 years to complete, and in the 5th year the company was bought/taken over by a large American competitor who promptly decided I was surplus to requirements! No problem, I was now ready to create my own change management company and go it alone!


{The type of reflection in this post was described by Erik Erikson who was a psychologist and existential philosopher! One of his most significant pieces of work was to propose a series of life stages we all go through from birth, with the final stage being labelled as “Maturity”. Nothing very significant in that. But …… he postulated that each stage triggered a conflict within us, a tension between two polar opposites, which for Maturity as a stage is the battle between Despair and Ego Integrity. In simple terms Ego Integrity would be having satisfaction with your past and what you have done, and feeling a sense of wholeness. Despair would be having disappointment in oneself and having regrets. My earlier post Reflections on Old Age explained this in more detail and now I am publishing a series of posts on my own Ego Integrity reflections}


 

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